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Sacraments can be a challenge for troops, says Pilot reporter


Cardinal SeŠn P. OíMalley wishes Sgt. Neil W. McCabe well as McCabe prepares to return to Iraq after a two week leave in late September. Pilot photo/ Gregory L. Tracy

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While Sgt. Neil W. McCabe was prepared for the blazing temperatures and the dusty, dry conditions which are part of the arid desert climate in Iraq, deployment has brought him an unexpected challenge -- the struggle to receive the sacraments.

McCabe, a Pilot reporter on active duty with the Army military leave, has gone from suburban Massachusetts, where it is easy to receive the sacraments, to Iraq, where attending Sunday Mass and receiving other sacraments has been a challenge at times.

Though sometimes travel and other obligations keep service members from participating in the sacraments, many times the problem is that there are simply too few priests to go around.

ďAs a Catholic soldier in Iraq, itís very painful when you arrive at the chapel to realize that there is no priest because the priest is somewhere else,Ē said McCabe, speaking to The Pilot while home on leave in late September.

For McCabe, itís quite a change from life in the Boston area, with its large Catholic population.

ďIíve never in my life had to deal with a situation where there are no priests. Itís something you hear about in missionary countries,Ē he said.

ďItís something you would read about in a history book,Ē he said.

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